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UK Athletics

UK Challenge Final report

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The UK Challenge Final took place at the Manchester Regional Arena on Sunday. The venue which this has already hosted the Norwich Union European Trials and AAA Championships and the Nike British Milers Club Grand Prix Final saw some top class competition and there was no end of season feel to the meeting as there were an astonishing amount of quality pbs from the likes of Tom Parsons and Scott Simpson and Jermaine Mays. The UK Challenge was made up of 48 events all over the country which began with the British Athletics League matches on May 6 and has taken taken in established events such as the BMC Nike Grand Prix and successful new ventures such as the Throwsfest and Jumpsfest and close on 4000 athletes have taken part in the Challenge.


The highest 8 scorers in each event were invited to Manchester to take part in the event and win the title of UK Challenge champion and compete for £15,000 prize money.  There will also be 2 prizes of Warm Weather Training Packages donated by WGT Sport Ltd which are worth £1,500 each and will go to the athletes who have earned the title of Athlete of the Challenge…


The Hammer , to the strains of Queen's 'Hammer to Fall' opened the programme and it saw a comfortable victory for Norwich Union European Trials and  2005 UK Challenge champion Andy Frost (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) who won with a 69.14 fourth round throw and all 5 of his legal throws were over 67.63.


Four times AAA bronze medallist Simon Bown (Newham & Essex Beagles) improved throughout with his last few efforts of 66.74, 67.29 and 67.77 closing in on his recent personal best. Nine time Welsh champion Graham Holder (Shaftesbury Barnet) was third in 59.42.


AAA Under 20 bronze medallist James Bedford (Kingston upon Hull) had a storming competition. Starting with a 53.20 Pb, he reeled off personal bests with the senior hammer of of 54.61 then 56.55 and then 58.27.


There was a quality men's high jump

Defending champion and Challenge leader Tom Parsons (Birchfield) struggled at 2.18 but cleared 2.21 first attempt and then after a near miss at 2.24, he cleared his personal best with his second jump and he had a very good first attempt at 2.26.  Of his 2.24 which earned a whopping 220 points in the Challenge. "I've been expecting a pb all season. I didn't feel good early on and only got 2.18 at the last clearance but then the technique came together and I had a great clearance at 2.21 and 2.24 but I got a little tired in my later attempts at 2.26. That's my last competition of the season and I can look forward to next year now with confidence."Gothenburg representative Adam Scarr (Enfield & Haringey) was second with 2.21 and Rob Mitchell (City of Manchester) was third on 2.15.


There was also a pb victory in the women's pole vault. Midland Champion Hilary Smith (Birchfield) won with 3.86 from two-time South of England champion Catherine Macrae (Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow) while Jennifer Graham (Glasgow) was third on 3.81.


Third in the vault, Scotland enjoyed a 1-2 in the women's hammer. The UK's top hammer thrower this year Shirley Webb (Trafford) started gently and only hit the lead with 62.15 in the fifth which she improved to 62.99 in the final round.


Susan McKelvie (Edinburgh Southern) set a pb of 62.03 with her final throw as Carys Parry (Rhondda) was third with 60.51. Another UK leader Jo Duncan (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) won the shot. The Throwsfest winner and UK Challenge defending champion found her third round 16.40 gave her a metre victory plus victory over Alison Rodger (Victoria Park) who set a pb of 15.32. Eleanor Gatrell (Woking) was third with her final round of 14.45.


Commonwealth bronze medallist Nadia Williams (Shaftesbury Barnet) won a very tight triple jump. She opened with a 13.02/-0.3 and improved to 13.09/+1.5 in the fourth round. Last year's winner Becky White (Sale Harriers Manchester) was second with 12.96 while Scottish record holder Gillian Kerr (Edinburgh Southern) was third on 12.76/1.0.


The men's triple jump was also close with just 17cm covering the top three.

Former Commonwealth champion Julian Golley (Windsor Slough Eton Hounslow) found his third round 15.82/-0.3 take first from former European junior champion Tosin Oke (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies) who jumped 15.81/-1.0 in the fourth round. Gary White (Rugby & Northampton) set a pb of 15.65/-0.4 to take third.


For personal bests it was hard to beat the pole vault. Scott Simpson (Birchfield) was clear up to 5.26, then cleared 5.36 at the second attempt and then a pb 5.41 on his third and he had a very close final try at 5.46. Paul Walker (Cardiff) also smashed his best with a final try at 5.31 upping his previous best of 5.15 by a huge 16cm. Christian North (Woodford Green & Essex Ladies) completed a quality top three with 5.21.


In the women's discus, Emma Carpenter (Exeter) was only third at halfway but a 53.58 fifth round throw gave her victory. Kirsty Law (Inverness) had a big breakthrough in second with a pb 52.30 as Norwich Union European Trials winner Claire Smithson (Brighton & Hove) failed to match her form in Manchester in July as she finished third with 51.25.


The men's discus went to Throwsfest winner Emeka Udechuku (Woodford Green with Essex Ladies). Starting with two no throws and then 55.34, he then improved to 57.12 before his 59.04 in the fifth ensured him of a win. Marcus Gouldbourne (Sale Harriers Manchester) was 2nd with his 57.27 in the fourth round. Third with a great breakthrough was Leslie Richards (Trafford) whose 54.97 was a big pb.


In the women's high jump, Commonwealth silver medallist Julie Crane (Sale Harriers Manchester) won with a quality third time clearance at 1.86.

Former Commonwealth silver medallist Susan Moncrieff (Trafford) was second with 1.76, a height shared by AAA Junior champion Jessica Leach (Dudley & Stourbridge).


The men's long jump was won by Suote Nyanoyo (Newham & Essex Beagles) in 7.34, a distance shared by Steve Small (Bournemouth) who set a pbof 7.34. Chris Kirk (Wakefield) also set a pb of 7.24 in third. The women's long jump was won by International Heptathlete Julie Hollmann (Peterborough) in 6.24. The men's javelin was a close contest Neil Mclellan (Stevenage & Mid Haerts) set a pb of 72.58.


In the men's shot Emeka Udechuku was a class apart in the shot winning in 18.23 to score a classy double. The Invitation 3000m walks opened the track programme and that saw an easy win for Commonwealth Games 7th placer Dominic King (Colchester) . He passed 1K in 3:57, 2K in 8:06.2 and won in 12:25.25. Closing the gap on the final lap was Steve Hollier (Wolverhampton & Bilston) in 12:30.51 and Mark Williams (Tamworth) who timed 12:33.91. Jo Jackson (Redcar) had a total solo walk to win the women's event in 13:31.06.


The first Challenge track race was the men's 400m. It was a close affair through the first 200m but on the final bend, Challenge leader Adam Charlton (Huntingtonshire), the quickest of the field with 46.71, kicked away into the strong headwind in the straight and he won easily in 47.40. Ryan Thomas (Belgrave) was 2nd in 48.34 with Rick Beardsall (Trafford) third in 48.59.


The women's 400m that followed featured a great race between two of Britain's 4x400 relay squad. Jenny Meadows (Wigan) who has made great progress this year over 2 laps showed her speed is still good but just getting the verdict over Emma Duck (Team Southampton) "It was a very close race and I think I was head and then Emma edged past in the straight but I just sneaked it with my speed endurance. The time was good in those conditions, " said Meadows of her 52.82 victory.

Duck, who ran a pb 52.84 said, "It helped being inside Jenny and I watched  her and it was great to finish the season on a high." The 2005 Southern bronze medallist Emma Kemp (Loughborough) missed her pb by an agonising 0.01 with 54.87 in third.


In the women's 100 hurdles, with Sarah Claxton's withdrawal, Gothenburg semi finalist Sara McGreavy (Sale Harriers) had an untroubled win, running a solid 13.58 into a very strong wind of 2.6mps. "I enjoyed that. It's good to support these events as they will get better and better. I felt relaxed and I've had a great season."


World junior fifth placer Zara Hohn (Wakefield) was a clear second in 14.09 while former Schools champion Sarah Porter (Sutton & District) was third in 14.12 as European Championships Heptathlete Louise Hazel (Peterborough) was fourth with 14.22.


While the women's hurdles saw a five metre victory, the men's top 4 were covered by a metre as the wind died down to 0.6. Scottish champion Francis Smith (Border) edged it in 14.34 from four times South of England champion Duncan Malins (Newham & Essex Beagles) on 14.35 with world junior finalist Gianni Frankis (Basildon) a very close third in 14.41. In fourth Tom Carey (Shaftesbury Barnet) set a pb of 14.44.


In the women's 200 (a -0.5 wind) Ellena Ruddock (Rugby & Northampton) enjoyed a clear win in 24.14. as both Melinda Cooksey (Tipton) and Joanne Ryan (Loughton) set pbs of 24.31 and 24.49.

The men's 200 (a +0.2 wind) saw a win for three-time National junior champion Leon Baptiste (Enfield & Haringay). In lane eight Baptiste impressed with a 21.05 victory. Darren Chin (Belgrave) in 21.21 and Ryan Moseley (Shaftesbury Barnet) in 21.57 completed the top three.

Commonwealth silver medallist Tasha Danvers Smith (Shaftesbury Barnet), a late addition to the field, won very easily in the 400m hurdles in a quality 55.88. "The wind was swirling and I'm not disappointed with the time. Manchester is a hard track to run good times on." Sian Scott (Team Southampton) came through well for second in 58.47 as Liz Fairs (Trafford) paid for matching the winner through the first half with third in 59.23.


If conditions weren't great for 400m hurdling it didn't seem to affect Richard Yates (Trafford). The 20 year-old in his first season at 400m hurdles broke through the 52 second barrier for the first time with a great finish and 51.44. "I'm pleased with that. I better find some more races. I can't hurdle properly yet and was stuttering so it wasn't perfect so there should be much more to come."

David Brackstone (Sale Harriers Manchester) was second in 51.87 as 110 hurdles winner Smith was third in 51.98. Further back there were three other pbs including a 52.04 for Ben Carne (Harrow).


Helena Tobin (Basingstoke & Mid Hants) easily won the 1500 front running through 67.1 at 400 and 2:17.0 at 800 and 3:10.88 at the bell to win by around 60 metres in 4:21.28.

Second was Kerry Harty (Newcastle) as 4:30.05 and third was Gemma Turtle (Shaftesbury Barnet) in 4:31.49.


In the men's 1500 Jermaine Mays (Kent AC) maintained his 100% record this year. Mays, who won the AAA steeplechase title and Norwich Union European Trials here in July led through 400m in a fast 59.7 before Mike Skinner (Blackheath & Bromley) took over to lead past 800 in 2:00.0. Mays took over again to lead pass the bell in 2:46.55 and then kept his form through a 57.51 last lap to set a pb of 3:44.06. Matt Barnes (Altrincham) who had the led the Challenge prior to the final was a close second in 3:44.30 as Skinner held on for third in 3:46.98.


Claire Entwistle (Trafford) was close to her pb as she won the 3000 steeplechase, showing excellent technique in 10:19.68 . Beijing World Junior finalist Ruth Senior (City of Norwich) challenged early on but paid for three falls at the water jump and was second in 10:31.66 while Hayley Ovens (Edinburgh Southern), who also fell, finished strongly in her steeplechase debut in 10:50.23 for third.

Less than a hour after his 1500m victory, Mays was back in action at his speciality. After being behind initially in the steeplechase he again controlled most of the race winning in 9:10.48. Glen Cornish (Sale Harriers Manchester) chased him all the way to finish second in 9:11.00 whiel Andrew Hennessy (Thames Valley Harriers)  was third with 9:21.78. Mays  said "I was very happy with the 1500m. I was going for a pb and I arranged with Mike to share the pace. Conditions weren't great. I was pleased with the double. I was caught off guard when Glen came by but I overtook him again as I prefer being in front in lane 1 as it’s the shortest distance and I can see the barriers."


In the women's 800m there were plenty of pbs. AAA finalist Charlene Snelgrove (Wakefield) set a great pace with 59.11 at the bell and 90.0 at 600 and there were still three others in contention. However she kicked hard on the bend and though slowing slightly in the last 50, she smashed her pb with 2:02.89. "I had planned to lead all the way as I hoped to set a pb and I'm not good in tactical races. I was surprised with the time as it was quite windy and that's my last race of the season. I started the season late as I was injured."


Claire Robinson (Basingstoke & Mid Hants) finished strongly to smash her pb in second in 2:04.23 while there was also a superb performance from Emma Jackson (City of Stoke) who just missed making the World junior final, took a second and a half off her best despite slowing herself in the straight with a 2:04.43 clocking.

Britain's fastest in 2006 Richard Hill (Notts) also tried front running leading through in 52.72, and 600 in 1:19.7. Entering the straight with a clear lead, he seemed to just do enough to win the race in 1:48.55.


Tom Settle (Sale) won a close battle for second in 1:49.49 which was a pb as was Kevin Kane (Cumbernauld), who timed 1:49.57 in third.

In the women's 100, Louise Bloor (Trafford) was an easy winner. She ran 12.06 into a 2.06 headwind.


In the men's 100 which completed the programme, Leon Baptiste was another to gain a double and he won in 10.59 into a huge 4.0 headwind., his first back toback wins for two years and he is looking for a good winter to have a strong indoor season.